The Balkans’ Run-Up to the Catalan Crisis

Hits: 1462

The dramatic developments surrounding the independence referendum in Catalonia, as well as the plebiscite for the self-determination of Iraqi Kurds, have once again raised the issue of the lack of clear criteria in international practice for allowing the self-determination of nations and territories. This creates a breeding ground for double standards and speculative political maneuvers. And although Catalan separatism has a long and unique history, an assessment of current events shows that there are links to other regional crises including in the Balkans, where the double standards and geopolitical games have become fully apparent.

Richard Haass, president of the influential US Council on Foreign Relations, recently took an active part in discussions on these issues. In an article published on the Project Syndicate website on 29 September, four days after the referendum in Iraqi Kurdistan and two days before the referendum in Catalonia, Haass writes that in today’s world, new statehood depends largely on recognition by other states. He then goes on to try to formulate his own set of standards that he believes should be applied in such situations. There are five of these ‘Haass standards’ (read: the Council on Foreign Relations’ standards): the existence of historical foundations that indicate “a clear collective identity for the people in question”; the existence of convincing arguments proving that “the status quo is imposing a large political, physical, and economic price” on the population; a clear indication by the population that “it strongly favors a new and separate political status”; an indication that the new state will be “viable”; and, finally, that secession will not “jeopardize the viability of the rump state or the security of neighboring states”.

If you look at former Yugoslavia in terms of these rules, then it is easy to see the West’s extreme haste in recognizing the independence of a number of Yugoslav republics, as well as the Serbian province of Kosovo. Among other things, there would have been no “large political, physical, and economic price” should Kosovo have kept its status after 1999 as a territory under the United Nations Interim Administration Mission in Kosovo with broad powers.

There are serious issues in assessing the “collective identity” of Kosovo Albanians, whom Albanian experts themselves and the leaders of the Albanian nationalist movement have traditionally regarded as part of the Albanian ethnic group since the activities of the League of Prizren from 1878-1881, an ethnic group that is currently exercising its self-determination as part of the Republic of Albania. Indeed, the level of “collective identity” of Bosnian Muslims and even of Montenegrins is historically inferior to that of Catalans and even more so of Kurds.

No serious expert would say that self-proclaimed Kosovo is financially viable without the support of the West. According to the estimates of independent organizations, the international community gave Kosovo $2.3 billion in aid between 1999 and 2002. Between 2005 and 2008, the country received $1.9 billion, nearly half of its GDP, to carry out reforms. The amounts are smaller these days, nevertheless in 2016, according to data from the IMF, Kosovo’s budget received €173 million in “foreign financing”, which is comparable to its expenditure on pensions and other welfare payments.

As for Richard Haass’ final point that the secession of a country should not jeopardize “the viability of the rump state or the security of neighboring states”, the armed Kosovo Albanian separatism and its unilateral support from the West were directly responsible for the destabilization in other Albanian-populated regions of the Balkans and created an extremely dangerous precedent.

There is good reason why the Balkan states are now further away from joining the European Union than they were a few years ago. This was demonstrated, in particular, by the 2017 Western Balkans Summit held this summer in Trieste under the aegis of the Italian government involving delegations from Albania, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Macedonia, Serbia, Montenegro and Kosovo. As emphasized by Italian Prime Minister Paolo Gentiloni, the EU intends to “keep open the prospect of countries of the Western Balkans joining the European Union”, but that now was not the right time and that, generally speaking, preparations for the Balkan countries to join the EU would “require a lot of time”.

There can be little doubt that the future situation both in Catalonia and surrounding Iraqi Kurdistan will reveal evidence of geopolitical maneuvers and machinations that have little in common with the interests of international stability and the aspirations of the people. As the Spanish newspaper La Vanguardia notes in connection with the Catalan referendum, “the simple and stark reality is that the EU is not particularly worried about popular protests”. The newspaper continues: “Many countries achieved independence in the final years of the 20th century – the former Soviet republics, the Balkan states, and even South Sudan – but their quest for independence received the blessing of the hegemonic powers and organizations: the US, NATO, the EU, and the IMF. The collapse of the USSR and Yugoslavia was part of their strategic plans with regard to these enemy countries… The independence of Kosovo was recognized, but the separatist sentiments in Abkhazia, South Ossetia, Crimea and southeast Ukraine have faced strong opposition.”

“The will of the peoples of the European Union is placed on a pedestal, but only if this will is in line with oligarchical and hegemonic interests… These interests could hypothetically change in favor of Catalonia gaining independence, but this will only happen if the Spanish government suddenly starts to pursue a socially oriented policy and tries to withdraw from NATO (no European party has ever won an election with such a program), counterbalanced by a neo-liberal Catalan government oriented towards NATO membership,” concludes La Vanguardia, sarcastically. Well, there’s certainly some truth in it.


Originally published on 2017-10-10

About the author:  Pyotr Iskenderov is a Senior Researcher, Institute of Slavic Studies

Source: Strategic Culture Foundation

Origins of images: Facebook, Twitter, Wikimedia, Wikipedia, Flickr, Google, Imageinjection, Public Domain & Pinterest.

Read our Disclaimer/Legal Statement!

Donate to Support Us

We would like to ask you to consider a small donation to help our team keep working. We accept no advertising and rely only on you, our readers, to keep us digging the truth on history, global politics and international relations.

[wpedon id=”4696″ align=”left”]

Save 

READ MORE!
The Balkan Vlachs (3)
The Vlachs in Greece Many researchers and scholars judge that the largest part of the Balkan Vlachs is concentrated in Greece. The census of 1935 recorded 19,703 Vlachs in Greece, but according to the last census in Greece that allowed people to express their ethnic identity (in 1951), there were 39,855 Vlachs in this state.[1] However, a real number of the Vlachs in Greece today is up to 120,000.[2] The Vlachs in a post-war Greece are not acknowledged as an ethnic or national group for the very reason that Greece from the mid-1950s does not recognize an existence of any national or ...
READ MORE
Memorial Day Hypocrisy
America is a warrior state, a serial aggressor, unaccountable for unparalleled high crimes against peace because of public ignorance and indifference.Americans are sublimely unaware of their nation’s history. Its so-called war of independence substituted new management for old. Everything changed but stayed the same.Civil war had nothing to do with freeing slaves, everything to do with keeping the nation intact, maintaining business as usual.Imperial America enslaved Black Africans, exterminated its native people, stole their land and resources, stole half of Mexico, followed by Cuba, the Philippines, Guam, Samoa, Hawaii, Haiti, the Dominican Republic, Canal Zone, Puerto Rico and other territories.Peace ...
READ MORE
Prof. Vladislav B. Sotirović about the Situation in Ukraine
Professor Vladislav B. Sotirović, Ph.D. is a Senior Lecturer of: “Middle East Studies” at the Mykolas Romeris University, Vilnius, Lithuania; “Mediterranean Studies;” “Ethnicity, Multiculturalism and Globalisation;” “Balkan Nationalism and Ethnic Conflicts” and “Europeanisation: Process and Results.”Prof. Dr. Sotirović is a distinguished expert on the History of the Early Byzantine Empire, 330–846”, Comparative History of Central and South-Eastern Europe and Ottoman History, History of Lithuania and Ukraine. He is well known abroad for his influential books and popular lectures about Lithuania, the Russian Federation, the Balkans, and Baltic Nations, and Multiculturalism.Professor Sotirović has studied at the Central European Summer University, Budapest, ...
READ MORE
Endless Atrocities: The US Role In Creating The North Korean Fortress-State
Paul Atwood, a Senior Lecturer in American Studies at the University of Massachusetts Boston, provides a concise summary of the history that informs North Korea’s “relations with the United States” and “drives its determination never to submit to any American diktat”. Excerpts from Atwood’s summary are here used as a framework, with other sources where indicated. Atwood notes it is an American “myth” that the “North Korean Army suddenly attacked without warning, overwhelming surprised ROK defenders.”  In fact, the North/South border “had been progressively militarized and there had been numerous cross border incursions by both sides going back to 1949.” Part of what ...
READ MORE
Only Fools and Liars will Blame Assad
So, here's how it is: 1) There is still no evidence - that has been presented to the public - that Assad ordered a chemical weapons (CW) attack. 2) Yes, that evidence should be made public, discussed and debated by Congress, and a vote taken before we use force. I acknowledge that the War Powers Resolution gives the President the authority to use force for 60 days - but the interests of peace and stability are better served through a debate and a democratic process as opposed to a unilateral decision made in secret, especially when the military action is punitive and ...
READ MORE
The Kosovo War: “Humanitarian Intervention” or Undeclared War Against Yugoslavia?
The armed conflict between the Kosovo Liberation Army (KLA) and Serbian forces started in 1992 with the KLA attacks on Serbian police officers, non-Albanians that lived in Kosovo and Albanians loyal to Serbia (Johnstone, 2002; Kozyris, 1999).  This low level conflict escalated in 1996 with the KLA attacking refugee camps as well as other civilians and policemen resulting in dozens of innocent deaths (Johnstone, 2002; Kozyris, 1999).  At this point of time and all up to late 1998, the KLA was regarded as a terrorist organisation (Gelbard, cited in Parenti, 2000:99; Jatras, 2002; Johnstone, 2002; Kepruner, 2003; Rubin, cited in ...
READ MORE
The Great War in 1914 and the Balkans
The WarmongersThe war, which began in August 1914 – to contemporaries the Great War, to posterity the First World War – marked the end of one period of history and the beginning of another. Starting as a European war, it turned in 1917, with the entrance of the US into a world war. The spark that triggered it off was the assassination of the Austrian heir-presumptive, Archduke Franz Ferdinand (1864−1914), by a Bosnian nationalist of Serb origin – Gavrilo Princip[1], a member of the Young Bosnia (Mlada Bosna) movement, in Sarajevo on June 28th, 1914 on his official visit to ...
READ MORE
The Balkan Caliphate: Saudi Power in Kosovo
Greater Albania has been debating deployment in Syria. A Muslim state, a Balkan Caliphate in the heart of Europe, was supported by Internationalists when they created independent Kosovo and Bosnia. Kosovo registered its first Islamist political party in 2013.  UPDATE: An article on NYT on the inroads of Wahabism into Europe from the Saudi foothold in Kosovo is oozing criminal naiveté on the part of postmodern globalist thinkers. Bill Clinton’s nexus with the lobby for Greater Albania created a Islamic state in the heart of Europe. To those with basic knowledge of Islam and its 1400 year old history — not least ...
READ MORE
Don’t Romanticise the Kemalist Legacy!
The political situation in Turkey is clearly dramatic, but it is also equally complicated. Turkish President Erdogan has succeeded in securing levels of power unique in the nation′s history. But is this situation really unique? No – for 15 years, the father of the nation Ataturk ruled alone over the early Republic, which was a one-party nation at the time. Only his untimely death in 1938 deprived him of that power.Up to that point, Ataturk alone ruled over every conceivable dimension of domestic and foreign policy. Even clothing and music were tailored to his ideas. The aim was the creation ...
READ MORE
NATO’s Reign of Terror in Kosovo & the Destruction of Yugoslavia
The following text was written in the immediate wake of the 1999 NATO bombings of Yugoslavia and the invasion of Kosovo by NATO troops.It is now well established that the war on Yugoslavia was waged on a fabricated h